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Canadian banks maintain expense guidance despite high inflation expectations



Royal Bank of Canada, Bank of Montreal and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) on Monday maintained their forecasts for growth in expenses this year despite expectations that inflation will remain elevated.

“The 2% inflation in the pre-pandemic world is something of the past,” CIBC’s CEO, Victor Dodig, said at the RBC Capital Markets CEO conference.

CIBC, Canada’s No. 5 bank, said last month it expects mid-single-digit expense growth in fiscal 2022, after reporting a 13% increase in the fourth quarter, the highest in the industry.

“Transforming a bank to compete into the future requires investment … that pays off in terms of revenue growth in the short term and … a better cost base over the medium- to long-term,” Dodig said.

The major Canadian banks broadly posted expenses that were higher than analysts had expected in the fourth quarter and some expect continued disappointments on that front in the first half of 2022.

Surging inflation resulting from supply-chain constraints has roiled economies globally, and the Bank of Canada said last month it expects inflation to stay above target into this year and only fall back toward 2% by the end of 2022.

Royal Bank, Canada’s top lender, still expects low-single-digit growth in non-interest expenses for fiscal 2022, and can slow down some investment and take out costs if needed, Chief Executive Dave McKay said.

Royal Bank continues to seek growth in the United States, and is interested in acquisitions of wealth distribution businesses in the United States and Europe, and commercial banking businesses in the United States, McKay added.

“We’re not missing any capabilities, this is about scaling in to new geographies in the United States, about scaling in ability, therefore we’re very selective,” he said.

Bank of Montreal said late last month it would acquire BNP Paribas’ U.S. unit, Bank of the West, for $16.3 billion in its biggest-ever deal, and sources told Reuters that Toronto-Dominion Bank is also on the hunt for acquisitions there.

BMO CEO Darryl White also reiterated the bank’s forecast for flat expense growth, helped by the impact of the sale of its EMEA business.

(Reporting by Nichola Saminather in Toronto and Sohini Podder in BengaluruEditing by Matthew Lewis)


Using rapid tests? N.S. Health now recommends swabbing both throat and nose –



Researchers with Nova Scotia Health’s microbiology team have found that collecting samples from both the throat and the nose makes for a more accurate rapid test result than just by nose swab alone. 

The research project was designed after a public discussion theorizing that a combined sample might produce more accurate results.

“But because that’s not currently recommended by the manufacturers, we wanted to actually investigate that possibility before we made those recommendations,” said Dr. Todd Hatchette, chief of the microbiology division in the department of pathology and laboratory medicine for Nova Scotia Health.

 “Based on what we found — if you were worried about Omicron if you have symptoms — if you have an antigen test, swab your throat first and then swab both of your nostrils and use that as your sample.” 

How to swab throat correctly

To swab your throat, it’s best to use the help of a mirror and stick the swab right to the back of the throat, past the tongue and tonsils, and rub it back and forth about five times.

“It may make you gag but that usually means you’re in the right spot,” said Hatchette. 

WATCH: A visual aid to swabbing your nose and throat for a rapid test

2 days ago

Duration 0:40

Nova Scotia Public Health is now recommending those who use rapid tests to swab their nose and their throat with the same swab when collecting their sample. 0:40

The 1,500 people who took part in the study administered the test themselves, under supervision, at the Halifax Convention Centre.

In a news release, Public Health said it’s working to update the current testing instructions because those from the manufacturer suggest just a nose swab.

Public Health also said if people decide to only test from one source it should be a nasal swab, which would give a more accurate result than just a throat swab alone. 

How did they determine the best way to test?

The research compared rapid test results from the following: nasal swab, throat swab, and combined nasal and throat swab. 

All the results were confirmed using PCR testing. 

Compared to PCR testing, the nasal-only and throat-only swabs each detected 64.5 per cent of cases. 

By combining both the nose and throat swab in one test, the swabs were able to detect 88.7 per cent of cases. 

The Nova Scotia team was the first to report research results to support the combined nose and throat collection method for rapid tests.

“A lot of anecdotal evidence suggested that just doing your nose was missing cases,” said Hatchette.

So every time a new variant comes out, we never know if it’s changed slightly and where it likes to grow and … studies like these are important to show that our tests continue to work and how we can improve them.

“No test is 100 per cent perfect, but this will help us recover more cases moving forward.”

Hatchette said his team is now looking at whether combined throat and nose swabs should become a standard practice when performing PCR tests. 

The research project has been submitted for publication.

Tam applauds study

Speaking at a news conference Friday, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, described the project as a “great Canadian study.”

Tam said Hatchette had presented his results to Canada’s chief medical officers recently.

She said she had asked her laboratory experts to take the study into account and see if they can provide further guidance.

Omicron may be behaving differently than previous variants, Tam said, so the new approach to be swabbing might be useful.

“I think that looks like some very sensible advice because rapid tests, we’ve got to make the best use of them,” Tam said.

“So if by some adjustments to the swabbing technique, we can get a high yield, that’s always a great thing to do.”


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Bank of Canada prepares for a long fight against inflation – The Globe and Mail



Governor of the Bank of Canada Tiff Macklem at the Bank of Canada in Ottawa, on Dec. 15, 2021.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Canada is on the cusp of a series of rapid interest-rate hikes, with the central bank poised to start raising the cost of borrowing as early as next week, beginning a sustained push to bring high inflation back under control.

After nearly two years of extraordinarily low interest rates, the Bank of Canada has arrived at a pivot point. Consumer prices are rising at the fastest pace in three decades, straining the bank’s credibility as an inflation fighter. Meanwhile, there’s growing evidence that the economy is operating at or near full capacity and no longer needs emergency monetary-policy support.

The central bank’s governing council faces the biggest decision since Governor Tiff Macklem took charge in June, 2020: whether to pull the trigger next Wednesday and start the process of normalizing interest rates; or whether to hold off until March to provide additional stimulus through the Omicron wave of the pandemic.

Bank of Canada rate hikes are coming, but that doesn’t mean a recession will follow

Today’s inflation is a problem the Bank of Canada can’t tackle alone

The last time the central bank raised interest rates was in October, 2018. The coming rate-hike cycle, which will see the cost of borrowing rise steadily over the next two years, is needed to tamp down rising inflation expectations and to start building up an interest-rate buffer before the next downturn. But it will also test the strength of Canada’s economic recovery, as well as the vulnerability of heavily indebted households.

“Private-sector debt is something that the Bank of Canada has to keep an eye on, particularly because the rate hikes that we’ll do in the next two years could affect the rates that people pay in renewing mortgages in 2024 and 2025 that they may have taken out at very low interest rates,” Avery Shenfeld, chief economist at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, said in an interview.

“And while we’ve put households to a [stress] test to ensure that they will be able to pay those higher rates, it will still put a big squeeze on their spending power,” he said.

Bank of Canada officials said in December that they did not expect to raise the policy rate – which has been held at 0.25 per cent since early in the pandemic – until April at the earliest. Since then, however, they have received a string of data releases showing the strength of the labour-market recovery, a record jump in home prices and a sharp rise in expected inflation and wage growth.

A central-bank survey of businesses, released Monday, found that two-thirds of respondents expect inflation to remain above 3 per cent for the next two years – a potent signal for policy makers. Meanwhile, 80 per cent said they intend to raise wages faster next year compared with last year to attract scarce labour. On Wednesday, Statistics Canada reported that the consumer price index rose 4.8 per cent in December, the fastest annual pace of growth since 1991.

This data pushed a number of analysts to revise their interest-rate forecasts. Economists at Bank of Nova Scotia, National Bank and Laurentian Bank pencilled in a rate hike for Jan. 26. Other private-sector economists expect a March liftoff, although most say a rate hike next week is possible.

Market pricing for overnight index swaps suggests an 83-per-cent chance that the bank moves next week, according to Refinitiv data.

“The bank basically has a free option [to raise rates next week],” National Bank rates strategist Taylor Schleich said. “The economy is screaming that we need interest-rate normalization, and now the banks and the markets are kind of allowing them to do it. So you may as well take it.”

Mr. Macklem has not spoken publicly since mid-December. But he used his last speech to tee up a possible shift in January, noting that inflation was “well above our target, and we are not comfortable with where we are” – strong language for a central banker.

The bank’s latest projection shows the rate of inflation falling to close to 2 per cent by the end of 2022, and bank officials believe that many of the supply chain problems that have been pushing up consumer prices will normalize over the coming year.

At the same time, Mr. Macklem and his team expressed concern in December that higher wage growth and rising inflation expectations could feed into “second-round” price pressures and become baked into higher inflation.

The Bank of Canada is not alone in manoeuvring into place for rate hikes. After spending much of last year arguing that high inflation would be relatively short-lived, central bankers in many advanced economies changed their tune in the final months of 2021. The most significant turn came from the U.S. Federal Reserve, which is dealing with the highest inflation of any advanced economy and strong wage growth.

At its December meeting, the Federal Open Market Committee decided to accelerate the end of its massive asset purchase program. Minutes from the meeting released in early January showed Fed officials expected to raise rates “sooner or at a faster pace than participants had earlier anticipated,” setting up a possible March rate hike.

This change in the Fed’s narrative spurred a sharp repricing in global markets. Fixed-income securities sold off in expectation of rate hikes. Equity markets stumbled, with notable declines in growth stocks that greatly benefit from ultralow interest rates when calculating future cash flows.

“The BoC probably does not look to the Fed for validation and they make decisions based on their policy frameworks and analysis,” Jason Daw, Royal Bank of Canada’s head of North America Rates Strategy, said in an e-mail. “But one area that a hawkish Fed makes it slightly easier for the BoC to raise rates is less appreciation pressure on the Canadian dollar than otherwise.”

It’s taken a long time for the Bank of Canada to get to the point where rate hikes are a possibility. It began shrinking its government bond-buying program, known as quantitative easing, in the fall of 2020, and ended the program in October. It is now in what it calls the “reinvestment” phase, where it’s only buying government bonds to replace maturing assets it already owns.

The central bank’s next move depends largely on whether it wants to wait until after the current COVID-19 lockdowns in Ontario and Quebec are lifted, said Mr. Shenfeld of CIBC. He added that the trajectory of rate hikes over the next few years matters more than whether the bank starts hiking in January or March.

“The exact timing of these rate hikes is important to people doing high-frequency trading. But not of that much importance to where the economy ends up a year or two down the road, which is what the Bank of Canada is really targeting,” he said.

Derek Burleton deputy chief economist at Toronto-Dominion Bank, said he expects the bank to bring its policy rate back up to around 2 per cent over the coming years, although policy makers could move haltingly.

“There may be a bit of probing, they may have to hike a few times, see how it plays out on the economy,” Mr. Burleton said.

“I think one of the questions, and this is more directed at central-bank tightening globally, is whether we go through periods of financial-market turbulence, and that could be a factor that could delay a steady tightening.”

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Evive Nutrition recalling smoothie product because of cyanide poisoning risk – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News



OTTAWA — Evive Nutrition Inc. is recalling its Immunity Super Functional Smoothie because it contains raw elderberries that may cause cyanide poisoning.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says the recall of the product sold online was triggered by consumer complaints, noting there have been reported illnesses associated with the product.

The agency says raw elderberries naturally contain cyanogenic glycosdies, which can release cyanide after being eaten.

It says that while the body can process small amounts of cyanide, larger amounts can result in poisoning and could lead to death.

Symptoms of cyanide poisoning include weakness and confusion, anxiety, restlessness, headache, nausea, difficulty breathing and shortness of breath, loss of consciousness, seizures and cardiac arrest.

The agency says it is conducting a food safety investigation that may lead to the recall of other products.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2022.

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